When we make messes and the stain stays, what is powerful enough to take away the guilt and the residue that seeps in?

©Joy Dunlap  https://joydunlap.com

The stain was there, and nothing seemed close enough or strong enough to fix it.  When I spotted that swath of blue paint covering the top of my foot, I knew I had done something wrong. But let’s back up a little.

For the first time in years, I was painting my own toenails. As you might have surmised, it didn’t end well.

I could have gone just as I was.  Chipped, unfinished, ugly and all.

With hundreds of people in a crowded room how many people would be looking at my toes anyway? Then again those tiny toes could end up in photos and what would that say about me?!To be clear though, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look our best, especially when it’s an occasion honoring others.

With an injured toe wrapped in a bandage, I’d been unable to get a much-needed pedicure for weeks. Shortly before I needed to be at the graduation event, interacting with all the students and their parents, family and friends, I decided to cover up the yuck on my own.  

Isn’t that what we attempt to do at times?  Try to fix the chips, the ugliness, the unfinished on us – in us – by ourselves.

How hard could it be?  I was going to cover up the super chipped, fuchsia-colored, awful looking toenails with royal blue polish to fit the graduation occasion.  Okay, okay, it would also make me look less scruffy.

That’s another thing.  Sometimes we try to put a little polish on our ugly, hoping that God and others might not notice what’s hidden underneath.    

I decided to do the touchups in the bathroom instead of the bedroom with the light-colored carpet. That’s about the only wise choice I made in this entire process.

With unsteady hands and less than perfect eyesight (even with glasses on), at first I was tentative and testing.  The resulting cover-up was messier than it should be and not everything was in the lines so to speak, but at a distance it looked good. Once I got further along and eight toes done, I began feeling sure of myself.

Prideful even.  

Then like a slow-motion movie, I was shocked to discover a glob of paint on the top of my foot. Where did that come from?  After a few perplexed seconds that seemed like ten minutes, I realized what I’d done.  Unconsciously – and unfortunately – while painting my toenails with my right hand, my left hand tilted the bottle, pouring the polish out.  At least it was only on me.  Or so I thought.  I was wrong.

A stream of nail paint had poured down leaving a big puddle of blue on the off-white tile.  Far from an creative artsy abstract, this was a flooring eyesore. In trying to fix up myself, not only had I made a mess of me, but I’d also made a mess around me!

Did I mention I haven’t painted my toenails in years?  The nearest polish remover was at the store (or maybe at a neighbor’s) but there was no time for that.  I had to get to the graduation reception. Hopping on one foot, I grabbed tissue and paper towels to blot up what polish I could on me and on the floor.

While some errant blotches got soaked up, the stain stayed. And, on me, that stain had seeped deep into my skin.

Poor character choices and mistakes we make are like that – they seep in and stain.  Even if we try to ignore them or wipe them away, or cover them up, they’re still there. Sure, only a little may peek out, but under the surface it’s there. 

Until I could utilize the trusted removal process, I hoped my shoes with a cross band at the top of the foot would hide most of the blue blob on me.  It wasn’t lost on me that now I was trying to hide two different things.  My attempted cover-up caused more to cover up.

Thankfully when I told my husband about the situation and the stain, he was very understanding.  And, after the graduation events, we stopped at a store and brought home fingernail polish remover.

Incredibly, that remover took away the stains.

What I thought couldn’t be removed was.

No matter how messy we’ve made our lives, or what we’ve tried to cover up, or what stain has been left behind, God is strong enough and powerful enough to remove any stain, to forgive the times we color outside His lines, and to give mercy for those all out messes we make. The good news is that He cleans up what’s inside.

It’s important to keep God close – not just so He can fix us when we falter, but because the beauty He gives us from the inside is the best we can ever have.

And as we go through life seeking to honor Him, others will see that true beauty too.

Even if they never notice our toes.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Titus 3:4-6

  • When is a time you made a physical mess or had an accident at home?
  • How has a lack of preparation caused you a problem in the past?
  • Which usually comes first – trying to fix a problem on your own or praying about it?
  • Is there anything you’re trying to cover up or that needs confessing and forgiveness?  (Talk to God about it today!)
  • What has God forgiven you for in the past that reminds you of His faithfulness and grace?

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9


Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™


*Scripture references are from New International Version (NIV)


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